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“Honest criticism is hard to take, particularly from a relative, a friend, an acquaintance, or a stranger.”
–Franklin P. Jones
✈️ Travel in the Age of COVID
Starting last month, travelers flying to the U.S. from abroad now have to show proof of negative COVID-19 tests before boarding their flight under a January 21 executive order signed by President Biden.
Airlines can accept both PCR and rapid antigen tests, which must be performed no more than three days before flying.
Passengers are responsible for providing written or electronic proof of a negative result prior to boarding – even if they have already been vaccinated for COVID-19.
The U.S. currently has travel restrictions preventing non-U.S. citizens and permanent residents from most of the EU, UK, Ireland, Brazil, China, Iran, and South Africa from entering the U.S.
After returning to the U.S., President Biden’s executive order requires air travelers to follow CDC guidelines “to the extent feasible,” though it isn’t yet clear how that would be enforced.
The CDC recommends getting a second test three to five days after travel and self-quarantining for a full seven days (or ten days without a second test).
🌎 Around the World
🇬🇧 The UKannounced a new policy on Monday requiring residents arriving from the 33 countries on the government’s “red list” to purchase a “quarantine package.” It costs $2,400 per person and covers hotel accommodation, virus testing, and other items.
Travelers arriving in England who are found to have lied about visiting a red list country face a fine of nearly $14K or up to ten years in jail.
🇫🇷 France imposed new COVID-19 border restrictions late last month, banning all non-essential passengers from outside the EU and strengthening testing requirements on travelers from within the EU.
🇨🇦 Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeauannounced on Tuesday that, starting February 15, anyone arriving in Canada by land must show a negative test taken within 72 hours or face a fine of up to 3K Canadian dollars (~$2.4K).
Travel bans should be based on evidence, not politics or fear
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📝 Sanctions on Myanmar
President Biden signed an executive order allowing the U.S. to impose sanctions on Myanmar’s military junta yesterday. The exact details of the sanctions were not released, though Biden said he intends to “impose strong exports controls.”
More: Myanmar’s military staged a coup earlier this month to depose Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s democratically elected leader. The coup’s leaders installed an 11-member junta, or administrative council, to rule under a year-long state of emergency. Dig deeper.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a UN oversight organization, confirmed Iran began producing non-enriched uranium metal on February 6 – an action banned under the now-defunct 2015 nuclear accords. To use uranium metal for a nuclear weapon core, experts say Iran would need slightly more than one pound of highly-enriched material.
More: Earlier this year, Iran announced plans to enrich uranium up to 20% “as soon as possible.”
Even More: When developing a nuclear weapon, the most laborious part of enrichment is between 0-20% – once this level is reached, enrichment can quickly jump to the 80-90% level considered ‘weapons-grade.’
Saudi Arabia released notable women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul from prison yesterday. Al-Hathloul, along with several other female activists, was arrested in May 2018 after calling for an end to the country’s strict male guardianship system and publicly advocating for women’s right to drive in Saudi Arabia – a right the country granted shortly after her arrest.
More: Al-Hathloul served nearly three years of a six-year sentence, and was given probation and travel restrictions as a condition of her release.
🏫 The Chicago Teachers Union’s 25k members voted to approve a deal with Chicago Public Schools regarding a return to in-person learning for the nation’s third-largest school district. (Left-Center | Right-Center)
😷 Improving the tightness of a single face mask or wearing two separate face masks could potentially reduce transmission of COVID by more than 95%, per new CDC research released Wednesday. (Worth Noting: The CDC stopped short of updating its guidance on masks, and the research has a number of caveats – for example, it only involved one brand of each mask.)
📱 On the Clock: TikTok
The U.S. government has indefinitely paused its plan to force the sale of TikTok’s American operations to a group of companies including Walmart and Oracle, per the WSJ. Separately, the Biden administration asked to delay the government’s appeal of a federal judge’s injunction of the Trump administration’s TikTok ban in a court filing late Wednesday.
More: The filing said the Commerce Department began a review that would help it determine whether the national security threat cited by the Trump administration continues to warrant a TikTok ban.
🐦 Trump Twitter Ban
Twitter CFO Ned Segal said in an interview with CNBC’s Squawk Box yesterday that former President Donald Trump would not have his ban from the platform reversed in the future, even if he ran for office again.
💬 Relevant Quote:
“The way our policies work, when you’re removed from the platform, you’re removed from the platform — whether you’re a commentator, you’re a CFO, or you are a former or current public official.
Remember, our policies are designed to make sure that people are not inciting violence, and if anybody does that, we have to remove them from the service and our policies don’t allow people to come back.”
More: Twitter first banned Trump from the platform around a month ago, citing “the risk of further incitement of violence” as the reason behind the decision.
Archer, a startup company developing electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (eVTOLs), announced plans yesterday to raise $1.1B through a SPAC merger with Atlas Crest Investment Corp. Separately, the company said United Airlines – which is among the companies backing the SPAC merger – placed a $1B order for its eVTOL (up to 200 units).
More: If Archer can get its aircraft certified by the FAA, it expects to deliver the first eVTOL in 2024.
In Other News…
🚘 Uber disclosed a net loss of $6.76B last year (compared to an $8.5B loss the year before) in the company’s Q4 earnings report.
📺 Jeep said it’s pausing the company’s Super Bowl ad starring musician Bruce Springsteen after it was revealed the singer was arrested on drunken-driving charges last November.
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💻 What a Way to Make a Living… Salesforce declared the 9-5 workday to be “dead” in a blog post Tuesday, offering its employees the chance to work remotely forever moving forward (similar to Facebook, Twitter, & Microsoft).
📷 Reel It In… Instagram announced its algorithm will not promote Reels containing a watermark or logo from another platform in an effort to discourage creators from recycling content from TikTok.
🌌 Howdy Neighbor… Alpha Centauri – the star system nearest to our own – may potentially be home to two life-supporting planets, according to a study led by the European Southern Observatory.
🌾 Rice, Rice, Baby
Which U.S. state is responsible for nearly half of America’s total rice production?
(keep scrolling for the answer)
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